How Designers and Stylists Would Handle a Recession

During a week devoted to lavish parties and enormously expensive gowns, it can be difficult to remember that a recession may soon be upon us. So we grilled designers, stylists, and other insiders about how they plan to handle leaner times.

Simon Doonan, creative director, Barneys
“I’m from the Quentin Crisp school of thought. When the war broke out, he bought 10 pounds of henna for his hair. You have to be a showoff when times are hard. You owe it to yourself to get dressed up. You owe it to the people around you. A little szoush and sense of glamour creates a sense of optimism. The whole idea of being understated when times are tough? No! Put on your best Prada frock and eyelashes and go for it!”

Booth Moore, fashion critic, the Los Angeles Times
“I don’t think enough designers are thinking about it. The clothes we’ve seen so far have been embroidered and beaded or very elaborate, and they only mean something to the top one-thousandth percent of the population. That being said, there are some midrange designers like Tory Burch who came at the right time, and they manage to make something that is wearable and attainable.”

Thakoon Panichgul, designer, Thakoon (Michelle Obama wore a dress of his on the final night of the Democratic Convention.)
“I’m not worried about the recession. I’m worried about John McCain. He’s up by 5 points and Cindy McCain was voted better dressed than Michelle Obama. I’m concerned.”

Tim Blanks, fashion writer and TV commentator
“This is an election year in America, and the next election will be in 2012, the same year the I Ching and Mayan calendar end. It’s bigger than the end. We’re not only looking at a recession, we’re looking at the end of fashion. We’re looking at the end of life as we know it.”

Wendy Schecter, stylist
“People will learn to love shopping in their own closets. It’s true. There are things with tags still hanging on them or something in the back that everyone knocked off this season. It’s always time to buy something new, but there’s something to be said for reworking.”

Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director, Neiman Marcus
“We work hard to find the best for our customer in the best economy as well as when it’s less strong. We have to excite and entice her. She still wants beautiful clothes that are appropriate and unique. We’re not telling her to trade down. She’s not shopping as robustly, but she’s still shopping. She’s not looking for basic. She’s not looking for simple. She’s looking for clothes to excite her when she opens her closet.”

Swaim Hutson, co-designer, Obedient Sons and Daughters
“We’re still new and we’re in a period of growth, so I don’t know the difference. Fortunately, we’re growing. We haven’t seen people cutting back on us. Cross my fingers.”

Jeffrey Kalinsky, founder, Jeffrey New York
“There is no recession in fashion. People are just more discerning with their purchases.”

Steven Kolb, executive director, CFDA
“What do I think about what? The obsession?”

Robert Burke, Robert Burke Associates
“The recession is the best thing to happen for fashion. It makes designers do their best work. You’ll see designers doing better work than ever before. Some may be careful, but there’ll be no lack of creativity.”